Editor's Note: After you read Tyler Dragon's prediction, vote for yourself on how many wins the Bengals will have this year by using the poll at the bottom of the story.
We’re getting closer to NFL football.
The NFL revealed the full 2021 schedule Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET. The 2021 slate will be different than in years past.
On March 30, the NFL announced its first change to the season structure since 1978. Instead of 16 regular-season games and four preseason contests, each NFL team is scheduled to play 17 regular-season games and three preseason games.
The Bengals kickoff the 2021 regular season at Paul Brown Stadium versus the Minnesota Vikings. Cincinnati hasn’t won a season opener since 2018. The Bengals’ season finale is against their intrastate rival Cleveland Browns in the Battle of Ohio.
Overall, the Bengals have nine home games and eight away games.
Will the Bengals have a bounce-back season after finishing last in the AFC North for three-straight years? Or will the team finish below .500 for the fifth year in a row? The Bengals haven’t ended the regular season with a winning record since 2015.
Now that the NFL schedule is official, The Enquirer’s Tyler Dragon has a way-too-early regular season forecast for the Bengals. If you don’t agree, don’t worry. We have a poll for fans to cast their vote on the Bengals’ 2021 regular season record.
Bengals 2021 regular season forecast and predictions:
Week 1 (Sunday, Sept. 12): Minnesota Vikings at Cincinnati Bengals
Zac Taylor and the Bengals open the season at Paul Brown Stadium. Will Joe Burrow be available Week 1? Burrow is currently 23 weeks removed from left knee reconstructive surgery. The prognosis for Burrow’s injury is nine to 12 months. Week 1 will be a little over 10 months post-operation. The Bengals QB is determined to play when the regular season begins.
The Bengals haven’t won a season opener since 2018. Minnesota is a 2.5-point favorite already. If Burrow does play, it might take him time to find a rhythm.
Prediction: Vikings win, 21-20
Week 2 (Sun., Sept. 19): Cincinnati Bengals at Chicago Bears
Will former Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton be Chicago’s starting QB or will it be Ohio State product Justin Fields taking the field in Week 2? Either way, this should be an interesting matchup at Soldier Field.
Joe Burrow demonstrates why the Bengals gave him the keys and parted ways with Dalton. The Bengals haven’t beaten the Bears since 2009, but their fortune changes in the Windy City.
Prediction: Bengals win, 26-20
Week 3 (Sun., Sept. 26): Cincinnati Bengals at Pittsburgh Steelers
The good news is the Bengals snapped an 11-game losing streak against the Steelers last year. The bad news is the Bengals haven’t won in Pittsburgh since Nov. 1, 2015.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin has the Bengals’ number at Heinz Field. Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd still hasn’t won in his hometown. He’ll probably have to wait another year to get a W in the Steel City.
Prediction: Steelers win 26-24
Week 4 (Thurs., Sept. 30): Jacksonville Jaguars at Cincinnati Bengals
A primetime Thursday night tilt featuring the NFL’s two most recent No. 1 overall picks, Joe Burrow and Trevor Lawrence.
Burrow’s first NFL victory came against the Jaguars last season. The second-year quarterback makes it two wins in a row over Jacksonville.
Prediction: Bengals win, 26-16
Week 5 (Sun., Oct. 10): Green Bay Packers at Cincinnati Bengals
Aaron Rodgers and the Packers appear to be mending their relationship. The reigning MVP is one of the best players in all of football. Rodgers and wide receiver Davante Adams are a dominant combination.
The Packers are a team that could represent the NFC in this year’s Super Bowl. Green Bay beats Cincinnati comfortably.
Prediction: Packers win, 31-17
Week 6 (Sun., Oct. 17): Cincinnati Bengals at Detroit Lions
This game could reignite the LT Penei Sewell vs. WR Ja’Marr Chase debate. The Bengals went with Chase. Does the rookie wide receiver make an emphatic statement in Detroit?
The Lions drafted Sewell, got a new quarterback in Jared Goff and named Dan Campbell their new head coach.
This is a new-look Lions team, but the Bengals go to Motown and get a convincing win.
Prediction: Bengals win, 31-22
Week 7 (Sun., Oct. 24): Cincinnati Bengals at Baltimore Ravens
In two meetings last year, the Ravens beat the Bengals by a combined score of 65-6. The Ravens' blitz-heavy defense gave Joe Burrow problems last year, sacking him seven times in Week 5.
Furthermore, Lamar Jackson is Cincinnati’s kryptonite.
Zac Taylor and the Bengals haven’t figured out how to beat Baltimore yet. Taylor is 0-4 against the Ravens.
Prediction: Ravens, 27-16
Week 8 (Sun., Oct. 31): Cincinnati Bengals at N.Y. Jets
Halloween in New York City (MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey).
The Jets could potentially have a stingy defense under new head coach Robert Saleh. Former Bengals pass rusher Carl Lawson will be licking his chops in anticipation for this game. But, the Jets offense with rookie quarterback Zach Wilson is a work in progress.
No matter if it’s at home or away, the Bengals overall have more talent than the Jets. Both are rebuilding teams, but the Bengals seem to be further along.
Prediction: Bengals win, 24-21
Week 9 (Sun., Nov. 7): Cleveland Browns vs. Cincinnati Bengals
These two teams scored a combined 136 points in two games against each other last year and the Browns swept the season series.
Running back Joe Mixon has more rushing yards (654) versus the Browns than any other opponent. Mixon likes playing Cleveland. But, a healthy Browns team survives.
Prediction: Browns win, 33-30
Week 10 (Sun., Nov. 14): BYE Week
The Bengals get a much needed Week 10 bye before their daunting slate to close the year.
Week 11 (Sun., Nov. 21): Cincinnati Bengals at Las Vegas Raiders
This game is going to be fun for a multitude of reasons. It also has the potential to be a high-scoring affair.
These two teams ranked 25th and 26th in the league in total defense in 2020. The Raiders allowed 29.9 points per game and the Bengals gave up 26.5 points per game. It’s probably going to take a lot of points to win this one in Vegas. The Bengals, when healthy, are a little more explosive on offense.
Prediction: Bengals win, 35-30
Week 12 (Sun., Nov. 28): Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Cincinnati Bengals
With Ryan Finley behind center, the Bengals snapped an 11-game losing streak versus Pittsburgh last year in what was a shocking Monday Night Football upset.
This game could be Ben Roethlisberger’s last hurrah at Paul Brown Stadium. Roethlisberger is 24-8 in his career versus Cincinnati.
Running back Najee Harris, wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster and the Pittsburgh defense lead the team to victory in what could be Roethlisberger’s last game in Cincy.
Prediction: Steelers win, 26-24
Week 13 (Sun., Dec. 5): L.A. Chargers vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Last year we were robbed of a Justin Herbert versus Joe Burrow duel at Paul Brown Stadium, because Herbert was inexplicably the Chargers No. 2 quarterback behind Tyrod Taylor. Hopefully this year we will all get the matchup between Burrow and the 2020 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Herbert outshines Burrow in this one, plus the Chargers have a game-wrecker in defensive end Joey Bosa who will give Cincinnati’s O-line fits.
Prediction: Chargers win, 28-25
Week 14 (Sun., Dec. 12): San Francisco 49ers vs. Cincinnati Bengals
San Francisco ran all over the Bengals, 41-17, at Paul Brown Stadium in Zac Taylor’s second game as head coach in 2019. The 49ers return to Cincinnati to face a Bengals team that looks much different than they did two seasons ago. However, the Niners’ defensive front is one of the best in football. Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead and Dee Ford are going to give Cincinnati’s O-line problems.
The Niners rushed for 259 yards the last time they were at Paul Brown Stadium.
Prediction: 49ers win, 24-20
Week 15 (Sun., Dec. 19): Cincinnati Bengals at Denver Broncos
The altitude in Denver is going to be an adjustment, as it is for every visiting team in Denver.
Despite being on the road at Empower Field at Mile High, the Bengals have a more talented roster. The Broncos figure to be one of the bottom teams in the AFC West. The Bengals won 20-17 the last time they traveled to Denver in 2017.
Prediction: Bengals win 24-16
Week 16 (Sun., Dec. 26): Baltimore Ravens vs. Cincinnati Bengals
Baltimore pummeled the Bengals 38-3 at Paul Brown Stadium in the 2020 season finale.
The Bengals haven’t defeated the Ravens since Sept. 13, 2018. Cincinnati’s losing streak versus Lamar Jackson and the Ravens continues. Baltimore has Super Bowl aspirations.
Jackson is undefeated versus the Bengals as a starter.
Prediction: Ravens win, 30-20
Week 17 (Sun., Jan. 2): Kansas City Chiefs vs. Cincinnati Bengals
The Chiefs are the best team on the Bengals’ 2021 regular season schedule. Patrick Mahomes is the best quarterback in the NFL. This is going to be a measuring-stick game for the rebuilding Bengals, even late in the season.
Kansas City is the clear favorite to represent the AFC in the Super Bowl for a third-straight season.
Home cooking won’t matter much to the Bengals in this one. The Chiefs cruise by the Cincinnati.
Prediction: Chiefs win, 35-20
Week 18 (Sun., Jan. 9): Cincinnati Bengals at Cleveland Browns
Battle of Ohio Part two. The Bengals' season finale is against their intrastate rival.
Many believe it’s the Browns and Ravens’ division to lose. This game could have serious playoff implications. The Bengals competed hard against Cleveland last year. However, the Bengals lost two high-scoring contests. Joe Burrow and Baker Mayfield are going to have some fun quarterback duals, and this is bound to be another.
The Bengals haven’t won at Cleveland since 2017. Their drought in Northeast Ohio continues. Defensive end Myles Garrett gives the Bengals problems and Odell Beckham is motivated to prove that he’s still a top-flight receiver.
Prediction: Browns win, 34-30
Bengals record prediction: 6-11